Building Cultural Bridges

My Journey from Japan to the Philippines

Words by Wataru Abe

My expectation about the Philippines was a cheerful everlasting summer. That’s what greeted me when I first came to the Philippines and exited the airport. It was past ten in the evening, but the air was humid and warm. My expectations met reality. Manila is energetic and lively. When I touch Philippine culture, there are parts of it that remind me of Japan. That feeling is very important; it’s behind what I do

I’m the Deputy Director in charge of Arts and Culture, and the Japanese Culture Intellectual Exchange. There are a lot of general matters to handle, so I want to develop an environment where people at JFM can maximize their abilities and skills. I’d like to help everyone work smoothly and comfortably.

Before I joined the Japan Foundation, Manila, I was working at a construction company. I wanted to help build structures like buildings and wide bridges. I love working on huge projects like these. I did that for about nine years, then when I turned thirty I had a realization about my future. I’d be working at the same job until I’d be sixty-five or maybe seventy years old. What do I want to do? What do I want to learn? Those were the thoughts going through my mind.

I had thoughts about changing my career, and around the time, I married a classical musician. I was inspired by her approach to culture and arts. I discovered the answers to my questions, which is to learn more about culture, philosophy–what it is to be human, really. I may not be what I studied in school, but it’s what I want to do at The Japan Foundation. 

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